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Three Things: California Carrot Cataclysm

[NB: check the byline, thanks./~Rayne]

You probably recognize this packaging and its contents.

Depending on the store at which you shop and location in the U.S., you might be more familiar with a different brand but similar contents.

Or perhaps you prefer regular or cooking carrots — the companies which produce them here in the U.S. are quite popular across the country.

Carrots, including “baby-style” or “baby-cut” carrots, are the fourth most popular vegetable in the U.S., with 51% of Americans surveyed acknowledging they’ve eaten them. Only potatoes, tomatoes, and onions are eaten more widely and they’re found in many dishes which aren’t potatoes, tomatoes, and onions. Carrots, though, are often eaten plain as snacks and in salads.

What’s weird about carrots for all their popularity and straightforward consumption, is how little the average American knows about them.

~ 3 ~

It’s worth your time to read this essay, Where do carrots come from? by gardening columnist Jill Severn in The Journal of Olympia, Lacey, & Tumwater (JOLT).

You may think she’ll tell where they come from, but instead she introduces you to a critical problem with and for U.S. agriculture:

Many years ago, a young woman from New York City came to visit on Bainbridge Island, brought by mutual friends who lived in Seattle. The Island amazed her; she said she had never seen so many trees.

She had also never seen a vegetable garden. As we walked the garden paths, she could identify tomatoes and cabbages, but pointed at a row of carrots and asked what they were. I pulled one up and showed her. A look of horror came over her face. “Carrots grow in the dirt?” She was horrified. “That’s so unsanitary!” Her feelings were hurt when we laughed.

Really, do go read it, because the scale and depth of the problem become more obvious. It’s not a laughing matter which Severn acknowledges.

I admit to being shocked when I first read those two grafs; I’ve had my hands in garden soil since I was eight or nine years old, growing strawberries and vegetables with the rest of my family. I know carrots not only grow in dirt but they can be a pain in the ass with the wrong soil or growing conditions, or pests. I know carrots straight out of the garden, once rinsed, are heaven to eat and need no adornment.

But as a parent I had a revelation when my oldest was tested for a gifted education program. She was encouraged not to jump into kindergarten but spend a year in a pre-K program because she didn’t know what peas were.

Admittedly, it wasn’t just peas — the other barrier was her ignorance about skipping. At age four when tested, she didn’t recognize it, didn’t know how to do it.

The one thing both peas and skipping had in common was that her parents and caregivers didn’t pass this knowledge onto her. Both parents being full-time white collar workers with schedules in excess of 40 hours a week, neither parent had spent time skipping with her. We took her to playgrounds, parks, taught her how to ride a bike with training wheels, but apparently skipping never made our agenda in the few waking hours we had together every week.

Same thing with peas, only perhaps worse: my spouse hated peas. I’d never cooked them by themselves  unless as pea pods, but the test my daughter took showed her a plate with podless peas. She had no idea what they were. I wish all these years later I’d asked what she thought they were — edible beads? odd candies? alien eggs?

This is how easily Americans become ignorant, by exclusion of information. In the case of carrots and peas, they’ve become ignorant about the very foods they eat every day, and at scale about U.S. agriculture.

~ 2 ~

This is Bakersfield, California:

The grey-blueish area is the city itself, all of its residential and businesses on either side of the Kern River which bisects Kern County. The squares of different shades of green and brown to the south and north of the city are farms.

Note how the city and farms nestle in a flat area surrounded by higher uneven terrain, and how by comparison the entire area is rather arid compared to a similar-sized area in the middle-to-eastern U.S.

Kern County’s average annual rainfall is roughly 6-9 inches, depending on the source consulted; there can be wide swings in this figure from year to year as 2023 will prove. But this average rainfall figure is less than a third of that in Lansing, Michigan or Evansville, Indiana, about an eighth of that in Columbus, Ohio.

The entire county’s native plant life is chaparral – the kind of plants which thrive in a Mediterranean climate with damp cool winters and baking hot summers. Farming anything but chaparral-type plants requires more water.

Farmers have not only used as much surface water as the local ecosystem provides but pumped for more. This has destabilized areas like that beneath the Friant-Kern Canal which serves water to Kern County’s agricultural businesses.

Meanwhile, water managers on the southern end of the Friant system are watching those flows with more than a little frustration.

They are being denied the same largess because the Friant-Kern Canal is out of commission in southern Tulare County as repair work continues there to fix a “sag” along a 33-mile section caused by excessive groundwater pumping that sank the land beneath the canal.

Because of the canal repair work not scheduled for completion until 2024, increased water from this month’s storms isn’t making its way down from Friant to Kern as it would if the canal were fully operational. While rains have increased over Kern County, the groundwater isn’t being recharged if any pumping continues during or after January rains.

This is the Friant-Kern Canal’s path, diverting water from below Millerton Lake from along the base of the Sierra Nevada range to Bakersfield:

Map: Friant-Kern Canal, central California, by Kent Kuehl-The Californian

In spite of much greater rainwater received at the northern source end of the canal, drought based on technicalities – un-recharged groundwater and unfilled reservoirs — and long-term water deficits may remain at the south end.

Snow melt from the Sierra Nevada may help, but there are potential geological threats in the wake of this month’s precipitation.

This is Kern County:

Map: Kern County, California via Google Maps

To say that there may still not be enough water even after all this massive flooding is saying something. The county is the third largest in California and roughly the size of New Jersey.

I won’t even begin to address the other issues related to water quality here, including oil waste fluid and soil fumigant TCP, let alone what water stores in Kern County have meant to other parts of California south of the county.

~ 1 ~

All of which brings me back to the question Jill Severn posed: Where do carrots come from?

85% of U.S. carrot crop is produced in California.

Three of the country’s largest carrot producers — Bolthouse Farms, Grimmway Farms, and AndrewsAgemploy roughly 8000 persons in the Bakersfield area, a number close to 2% of Bakersfield’s population.

This is where our nation’s carrots come from.

Chances are good the carrot crop has been affected in some way by this month’s rainfall in California, even if Kern County hasn’t borne the brunt of it the way other portions of the state have, like central coast, or the Sierra Nevada range with its massive snow pack.

I haven’t even mentioned the challenge of transporting these carrots and other produce. You can see from the city and county maps above the highways which enter and exit Kern County, limited in part by the geography since cutting roads through hills and mountains isn’t a minor undertaking.

This map shows recent landslides which may have affected highways over which produce has been transported:

Map: Landslides in California, January 1-16, 2023, via CA Geological Survey.

Even when the rains stop and the snow melt has finished, instability along some highways will continue.

But carrots aren’t the only produce grown in California and trucked across the U.S.

Where does our garlic comes from? Mostly Santa Clara and Fresno counties – the former badly hammered by this month’s rain – producing roughly half of all garlic consumed in the U.S.

Where do our strawberries come from? Monterey, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Cruz counties, all along central coastal California and all savaged horribly by this month’s storms. Around 90% of strawberries consumed in the U.S. come from this region.

Lettuce is much the same as is celery. I’ve had both romaine and celery in my refrigerator recently which was grown by Tanimura & Antle Farms in California, in the San Joaquin Valley. The same valley has been flooded.

Unlike competitor Bolthouse Farms, Tanimura & Antle is an employee-owned farming business. It also owns farming operations in Arizona and Tennessee, but the latter is particularly interesting as it’s a hydroponic greenhouse facility for lettuce production located between Nashville and Knoxville.

It doesn’t look like much from the air:

Satellite photo: Greenhouse lettuce facility, Tanimura & Antle, Livingston TN via Google Maps

But it’s much more like the most productive fresh produce farms – those in the Netherlands serving Europe.

The Washington Post ran a marvelous piece about farming in the Netherlands this past November. It’s worth the effort to read because this small country 1.5 times the size of Maryland has become a super producer, the “world’s second largest exporter of agricultural products by value behind the United States” according to the WaPo’s article.

Thinking about water and land use, we could learn a lot from the Dutch:

The Netherlands produces 4 million cows, 13 million pigs and 104 million chickens annually and is Europe’s biggest meat exporter. But it also provides vegetables to much of Western Europe. The country has nearly 24,000 acres — almost twice the size of Manhattan — of crops growing in greenhouses. These greenhouses, with less fertilizer and water, can grow in a single acre what would take 10 acres of traditional dirt farming to achieve. Dutch farms use only a half-gallon of water to grow about a pound of tomatoes, while the global average is more than 28 gallons.

How much less water would growers need in California if they used similar technologies? How much less oil would we need to ship produce if we had more smaller produce farms spread out across the U.S., copying Dutch vertical farming under LEDs in greenhouses?

How much less risk would there be to the nation’s food supply if produce wasn’t so heavily concentrated in a single state, one vulnerable to more extremes in weather, wildfire, and earthquakes?

Disruptions to power for protracted periods?

Not to mention the ongoing problems of long-term water availability and its contamination, or other challenges like food-borne illness (ex. E. coli in romaine lettuce from Salinas County, CA).

This isn’t a problem confined to California alone. The celery I bought most recently was from either California or Arizona.

The same Arizona where unincorporated municipality Rio Verde had its water supply cut off by neighboring Scottsdale due to drought. The long-term outlook doesn’t look good, either.

The heavy rain and snow battering California and other parts of the Mountain West over the past two weeks is helping to refill some reservoirs and soak dried-out soil. But water experts say that one streak of wet weather will not undo a 20-year drought that has practically emptied Lake Mead, the country’s largest reservoir, and has strained the overburdened Colorado River, which supplies about 35 percent of Arizona’s water. The rest comes from the state’s own rivers or from aquifers in the ground.

Where does our next celery come from?

We need to learn about our nation’s agriculture in a hurry.

Three Things: Walking in the Rain

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

“I always like walking in the rain, so no one can see me crying.”
― Charlie Chaplin

Now is not a good time to be walking in the rain, even if it hides your tears (I’m talking to you, Kevin McCarthy).

~ 3 ~

There are numerous warnings and advisories about the extreme weather event underway in California. The central portion of the state is and will be hardest hit over the next 12-24 hours because of a “bomb cyclone” but the entire state will feel the effects in varying degrees.

In no small part it will be due to the accumulation of rain before this cyclone; the ground in many area is already waterlogged and unable to soak up more water. As you can see from this California Water Watch map based on Tuesday’s data, portions of central CA had already passed 200% of the year-to-date precipitation before the cyclone hit.

There’s rain forecast every day for the next week as well; it’s hard to imagine there not being some enormously dangerous effects arising from this much rain in a state which ordinarily doesn’t see this much rain in an entire season.

~ 2 ~

But it’s not just the rain which is problematic.


[Graphic: Surface wind, approx. 3:15 PM PST January 4, 2023 via earth.nullschool.net]

Power outages are ongoing, some beginning late morning Wednesday. The entire Mission district in the Bay area went dark in early evening local time; by 10:00 p.m. 100,000 residents had lost power in the region.

(Gee, I wonder how Silicon Valley and San Jose are handling this weather event.)

Portions of Santa Cruz upgraded from evacuation warning to evacuation ordered.

I listened to a podcast Wednesday evening on KQED featuring Daniel Swain, climate scientist, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA; Brian Garcia, warning coordination meteorologist, National Weather Service SF Bay Area/Monterey; and Gerry Diaz, newsroom meteorologist, SF Chronicle.  I was struck by how blasé and banal some of the inquiries to the station were, like how to deal with problematic trees, or whether a person living less than 14 feet above sea level on a canal might be at risk of flooding. It was already far too late to be asking these kinds of questions when much of the area was already without power, the coastline was surely being battered by gale and hurricane-force winds, and people should have evacuated 12 hours earlier.

So much denial.

~ 1 ~

The really sad part: just like the wildfires California has faced the last handful of years, this isn’t the last time there will be a weather event of this magnitude. There will be more, they will get bigger, they will happen more often. Denial won’t prevent them or make them go away, any more than denial has worked to fend off the COVID pandemic.

Yet denialists will point to other disasters elsewhere in the U.S. claiming California isn’t anything special, normalizing weather disasters.

This normalization, though, denies the increasing number of weather disasters, keeping pace with the mounting climate crisis:

Eight out of the 10 years with the highest number of natural disasters occurred in the last decade.

Since 1980, there have been 332 billion-dollar natural disasters in the US. In total, these disasters have cost $2.2 trillion after adjusting for inflation and took the lives of more than 15,000 people. This includes 160 severe storms, 57 tropical cyclones or hurricanes, 36 floods, 30 droughts, 20 wildfires, 20 winter storms, and nine freezes.[1]

In the 1980s, there were a total of 31 billion-dollar natural disaster events, resulting in 2,970 deaths. In the 2010s, this number rose to 128 such events, resulting in 5,227 deaths.

[Source: USAFacts.org, Is the number of major natural disasters increasing?, updated November 5, 2022]

Now denialists are currently obstructing the operation of U.S. government by holding out against the majority of their party’s caucus and refusing to elect their party’s choice for House Speaker. By denialist I mean the members of the House GOP caucus who denied the results of the 2020 election, who objected to certification of the election, who were Trump-y enough to be endorsed by the orange-skinned golf cheat. None of these people are serious about governance; none of them will do anything constructive as members of Congress with regard to climate change.

They are simply continuing the January 6 insurrection by other means.

It must be particularly galling to House Speaker candidate Kevin McCarthy (R, CA-20), being held hostage by a couple handfuls of people from wide-flung places across the U.S.:

[Source: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/01/04/us/politics/house-speaker-republicans-vote-against-mccarthy.html]

…while McCarthy’s district is currently floating away, and he’s unable to do anything about federal response as a member of Congress.

~ 0 ~

If you’re in California, please, please, PLEASE heed the National Weather Service’s warnings about conditions in your area.

Mastodon user Jenny from the Bloc (@f[email protected]) pulled together a nice list of informational links for use by Californians and curious folks outside the Golden State:

https://aware.zonehaven.com/search – map of evacuation orders and statuses (not complete – only works where integrated with local services)

https://pgewam.lovelytics.info/pge_weather_app/ – pg&e-run weather map with information on winds, precipitation, and more

https://pgealerts.alerts.pge.com/outages/map/ – pg&e-run map of outages. lets you search by address

https://poweroutage.us/area/state/california – third party map of outages. does *not* let you search by address

https://calalerts.org/ – landing page for county-based emergency alerts. note that each county runs their own system, so if you want to keep track of multiple locations in different counties you will need a unique account for each county

https://sfplanninggis.org/floodmap/ – hypothetical flood risk map for city of sf (NOT real time)

https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/map/# – noaa-run map of tides, water levels, meteorological observations, and more

https://marin.onerain.com/map/?view=www_marincounty – marin-based map of winds, precipitation, river levels, and more

https://www.oaklandca.gov/topics/winter-storms city of oakland’s dedicated winter storms webpage with further links to oakland-specific resources

https://www.windy.com/ – weather map with information on temperature, precipitation, air quality, and more

https://quickmap.dot.ca.gov/ caltrans-run map of road conditions

https://sonomacounty.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=69a0e54e9e2b48c086d122027b21c961 – sonoma county evacuation map
https://slvpost.com/at-home-when-debris-flow-strikes-there-is-hope/ – article about recognizing and responding to debris flows (land slides, mud slides, etc)

https://www.wunderground.com/ – weather site that is extra useful for under-served areas

https://alert.valleywater.org/map?p=map – surface water data & map for the south bay

https://www.cityofpaloalto.org/Departments/Public-Works/Engineering-Services/Creek-Monitor-Cam creek monitor and camera for palo alto

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/08/12/climate/california-rain-storm.html – not about this storm in specific, but an interactive article predicting exactly this kind of storm, explaining how we got here, and exploring what we can do to respond to storms of this type.

For the rest of our community members, do spend some time this week checking your emergency/disaster preparedness plan.

Thursday: Alien Occupation

Since I missed a Monday post with a movie clip I think I’ll whip out a golden oldie for today’s post.

This movie — especially this particular scene — still gets to me 37 years after it was first released. The ‘chestburster’ as scene is commonly known is the culmination of a body horror trope in Ridley Scott’s science fiction epic, Alien. The horror arises from knowing something happened to the spacecraft Nostromo’s executive officer Kane when a ‘facehugger’ leapt from a pod in an alien ship, eating through his space helmet, leaving him unresponsive as long as the facehugger remained attached to his face. There is a brief sense of relief once the facehugger detaches and Kane returns to consciousness and normal daily functions. But something isn’t right as the subtle extra scrutiny of the science officer Ash foreshadows at the beginning of this scene.

Director Ridley Scott employed a different variant of body horror in his second contribution to the Alien franchise, this time by way of a xenomorph implanted in her mimicking pregnancy in scientist Shaw. She is sterile, and she knows whatever this is growing inside her must be removed and destroyed or it will kill both her and the remaining crew. The clip shared here and others available in YouTube actually don’t convey the complete body horror — immediately before Shaw enters this AI-operated surgical pod she is thwarted by the pod’s programming for a default male patient. In spite of her mounting panic and growing pain she must flail at the program to enter alternative commands which will remove the thing growing inside her.

I suspect the clips available in YouTube were uploaded by men, or they would understand how integral to Shaw’s body horror is the inability to simply and quickly tell this surgical pod GET THIS FUCKING THING OUT OF ME RIGHT THE FUCK NOW.

I don’t know if any man (by which I mean cis-man) can really understand this horror. Oh sure, men can realistically find themselves host to things like tapeworms and ticks and other creatures which they can have removed. But the horror of frustration, being occupied by something that isn’t right, not normal, shouldn’t continue, putting its host at mortal risk — and not being able to simply demand it should be removed, or expect resources to avoid its implantation and occupation in one’s self? No. Cis-men do not know this terror.

Now imagine the dull background terror of young women in this country who must listen to white straight male legislators demand ridiculous and offensive hurdles before they will consider funding birth control to prevent sexual transmission of Zika, or fund abortions of Zika-infected fetuses which put their mothers at risk of maternal mortality while the fetuses may not be viable or result in deformed infants who’ll live short painful lives. Imagine the horror experienced by 84 pregnant women in Florida alone who’ve tested positive for Zika and are now being monitored, who don’t know the long-term outcomes for themselves or their infants should their fetuses be affected by the virus.

Body horror, daily, due to occupation not only by infectious agents alien to a woman’s body, but occupation by patriarchy.

I expect to get pooh-poohed by men in comments to which I preemptively say fuck off. I’ve had a conversation this week about Zika risks with my 20-something daughter; she turned down an invitation this past week to vacation with friends in Miami. It’s a realistic problem for her should she accidentally get pregnant before/during/immediately following her trip there.

We also talked about one of her college-age friend’s experiences with Guillain–Barré syndrome. It’s taken that young woman nearly three years to recover and resume normal function. She didn’t acquire the syndrome from Zika, but Guillain–Barré’s a risk with Zika infections. There’s too little research yet about the magnitude of the risk — this vacation is not worth the gamble.

But imagine those who live there and can’t take adequate precautions against exposure for economic reasons — imagine the low-level dread. Imagine, too, the employment decisions people are beginning to make should job offers pop up in areas with local Zika transmission.

What’s it going to take to get through to legislators — their own experience of body horror? Movies depicting body horror don’t seem to be enough.

Wheels
Put these two stories together — the next question is, “Who at VW ordered the emissions cheat device from Bosch before 2008?”

Pretty strong incentives for Volkswagen to destroy email evidence. I wonder what Bosch did with their emails?

Self-driving electric cars are incredibly close to full commercialization based on these two stories:

  • Michigan’s state senate bill seeks approval of driverless cars (ReadWrite) — Bill would change state’s code to permit “the motor vehicle to be operated without any control or monitoring by a human operator.” Hope a final version ensures human intervention as necessary by brakes and/or steering wheel. I wonder which manufacturer or association helped write this code revision?
  • California now committed to dramatic changes in greenhouse gas emissions (Los Angeles Times) — State had already been on target to achieve serious reductions in emissions by 2020; the new law enacts an even steeper reduction by 2030 in order to slow climate change effects and improve air quality.

I don’t know if I’m ready to see these on the road in Michigan. Hope the closed test track manufacturers are using here will offer realistic snow/sleet/ice experience; if self-driving cars can’t navigate that, I don’t want to be near them. And if Michigan legislators are ready to sign off on self-driving cars, I hope like hell the NHTSAA is way ahead of them — especially since emissions reductions laws like California’s are banking heavily on self-driving electric cars.

Google-y-do

  • Google’s parent Alphabet-ting on burritos from the sky (Bloomberg) — No. No. NO. Not chocolate, not doughnuts, not wine or beer, but Alphabet subsidiary Project Wing is testing drone delivery of Chipotle burritos to Virginia Tech students? Ugh. This has fail all over it. Watch out anyhow, pizza delivery persons, your jobs could be on the bubble if hot burritos by drone succeed.
  • API company Apigee to join Google’s fold (Fortune) — This is part of a big business model shift at Google. My guess is this acquisition was driven by antitrust suits, slowing Google account growth, and fallout from Oracle’s suit against Google over Java APIs. Application programming interfaces (APIs) are discrete programming subroutines which, in a manner of speaking, act like glue between different programs, allowing programmers to obtain resources from one system for use in a different function without requiring the programmer to have more than passing understanding of the resource. An API producer would allow Google’s other systems to access or be used by non-Google systems.
  • Google to facilitate storage of Drive content at cloud service Box (PC World) — Here’s where an API is necessary: a Google Drive user selects Box instead of Drive for storage, and the API routes the Drive documents to Box instead of Drive. Next: imagine other Google services, like YouTube-created/edited videos or Google Photo-edited images, allowing storage or use by other businesses outside of Google.

Longread: Digitalization and its panopticonic effect on society
Columbia’s Edward Mendelson, Lionel Trilling Professor in Humanities and a contributor at PC Magazine, takes a non-technical look at the effect our ever-on, ever-observing, ever-connected technology has on us.

Catch you later!

Tuesday: In a Season of Crime

Ride the train, I’m far from home
In a season of crime, none need atone
I kissed your face


— excerpt, Sue (or In a Season of Crime) by David Bowie

Bowie left us an amazing parting shot with his 25th and final album, Blackstar. The cut featured here is a free jazz/jazz-rock fusion work which sounds off-kilter or out of sync, the lyric melody not tracking with rhythm — until one looks at the lyrics as a story of confusion told at the same time as a driving lyric-less and inevitable story beats on at the same time.

Seems like an unintended metaphor for our general election politics.

Back to School, Fool
Guess who’s back in town? A bunch of Congressional lame ducks back from vacation — I mean — work in their districts where they glad-handed at county fairs between bites of deep-fried Twinkies and kissing babies for campaign photo ops.

Get back to work and produce funding for Zika research AND birth control, damn it. Your continued intransigence is costing lives — short, ugly, painful, deformed lives on which you are pitiless and merciless, you fundamentalist let-them-eat-cake hacks. It’s only a matter of time before somebody in your district ends up Zika-infected and pregnant after vacation trip to someplace warm like Miami — or mosquito-bitten during during their day job like lawn care or construction or mail delivery. Researchers are working incredibly hard with the limited funding they’ve had; there’s only so much they can do with inadequate funding. And birth control MUST be available to all who need it. Planned Parenthood can and does hand out condoms, you pathetic slack-handed weasels. Fund them.

STG if I was the president, I’d look at any way possible to trim funding to unusual projects in states with GOP senators and then declare an emergency, pull that trimmed funding to pay for subsidized birth control in the same damned states. With researchers now having found Zika infection may spread by bodily fluids like semen, vaginal fluid, saliva, and tears while documented cases mount, there’s ample grounds to write an executive order during a lame duck session.

Big Oil = Big Bully

The NoDAPL project is bad all around. There’s no good reason for it to proceed.

— The economics of oil supply and demand do not support it; the cost to proceed is simply not supportable.

— The environmental cost of this project and the oil it is intended to carry are untenable; investment of resources private and public should go toward non-fossil fuels.

— The project violates the rights of Native Americans in numerous ways and no good faith effort has been made to address them during planning, let alone now as construction begins. The current and future damage to the Sioux only exacerbates hundreds of years of abuses against their sovereign nation.

— The companies investing in this project including Enbridge cannot assure the safe operation of this pipeline given the history of pipeline leaks across this country. In Enbridge’s case, this foreign-owned corporation has already proven unreliable and opaque in pipeline operations.

— NoDAPL should not proceed for the same reasons Keystone XL pipeline did not proceed: it is not in our country’s best interest.

I don’t know how anyone can look at this bulldozing of land containing buried Native Americans and not see it as a direct, deliberate effort to erase their existence. This is accursed behavior which in no way addresses the needs for alternative energy outlined in the Defense Department’s Quadrennial Review or our nation’s need to secure its people by reducing carbon dioxide output.

Odd Lots

  • Disposal wells in Oklahoma including Osage Nation shut down after earthquake (Tulsa World) — Yet another case where extractive fossil fuel business on Native American tribal lands has been highly problematic. 17 wells were shut down by the EPA after Oklahoma’s M5.6 induced earthquake this weekend; these wells are in addition to 37 other disposal wells shut down this weekend near the quake’s epicenter. Haven’t seen yet whether another earthquake of this magnitude could set off an overdue 500-year magnitude earthquake along Missouri’s New Madrid fault.
  • U.S. district judge denies federal plan to open 1 million acres of central CA public lands for fracking and drilling (IndyBay.org) — Bureau of Land Management didn’t do its homework on environmental risks from fracking, focusing too heavily on drilling instead. Sounds a lot like Army Corp of Engineers’ slap-dash disregard for externalities when it analyzed the NoDAPL, doesn’t it?
  • OK’s earthquake insurance market already under review (Tulsa World) — Insurers have only paid out on 20 percent of earthquake-related claims since 2010; the market has also undergone consolidation and 300-percent rate increases. No word yet on how much damage this weekend’s M5.6 quake or subsequent aftershocks have caused. Hope the public lights a fire under Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak about his review of the market. It’s grossly unfair the public must bear the cost of risk created by extractive industries as it is.

Longread: Lawsuit against DMCA Section 1201
Johns Hopkins University professor and cryptographer Matthew Green filed suit against the federal government in late July to strike down Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The current law prevents security researchers from adequately investigating products. Worthwhile read — this has huge repercussions on our safety and security given how much of the technology around us is copyrighted but leaky as hell and prone to hacking.

Hasta pasta!

Thursday: Creep

Covers are often treated like poor relations in hand-me-downs. It’s not the performer’s own work, how can they possibly do the original justice?

Yeah…and then this. I think it’s an example of an exceptional cover. It’s one of my favorites. There are a number of other fine covers of this same piece — some are sweet, some have better production values, and some are very close to Radiohead’s original recording. But this one has something extra. Carrie Manolakos, a Broadway performer known for her role as Elphaba in Wicked, takes a breath at 2:19 and watch out. Her second album will release next month if you enjoy her work.

In Sickness and Health
Here, read these two stories and compare them:

Leaving you with the actual heds on these articles. How isn’t this simple extortion? You know, like, “Nice national health care system you’ve got there. It’d be a shame if anything happened to it.”

Cry me a river about corporate losses. Last I checked Aetna’s been paying out dividends regularly, which means they still have beaucoup cash.

If only we’d had a debate about offering single payer health care for everyone back in 2009 so we could say Fuck You to these vampiric corporate blackmailers.

Still in Shadow
A timeline of articles, analysis, commentary on the hacking of NSA malware staging servers by Shadow Brokers — no window dressing, just links:

15-AUG-2016 8:48 AM — https://twitter.com/mikko/status/765168232454037504 (Mikko Hypponen–Kaspersky tweeting discovery of Shadow Brokers’ auction of Equation Group code)

16-AUG-2016 7:22 AM — http://cybersecpolitics.blogspot.com/2016/08/why-eqgrp-leak-is-russia.html (Info sec expert Dave Aitel’s assessment on hackers responsible)

16-AUG-2016 7:40 AM — https://twitter.com/Snowden/status/765513662597623808 (Edward Snowden’s tweet thread [NB: don’t be an idiot and click on any other links in that thread])

16-AUG-2016 7:22 PM — https://securelist.com/blog/incidents/75812/the-equation-giveaway/ (time zone unclear)

16-AUG-2016 ?:?? — http://xorcat.net/2016/08/16/equationgroup-tool-leak-extrabacon-demo/

17-AUG-2016 8:05 AM EST — https://motherboard.vice.com/read/what-we-know-about-the-exploits-dumped-in-nsa-linked-shadow-brokers-hack

17-AUG-2016 ?:?? — https://www.cs.uic.edu/~s/musings/equation-group/ (University of Illinois’ Stephen Checkoway’s initial impressions)

17-AUG-2016 7:23 PM EST — https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nsas-use-of-software-flaws-to-hack-foreign-targets-posed-risks-to-cybersecurity/2016/08/17/657d837a-6487-11e6-96c0-37533479f3f5_story.html

18-AUG-2016 6:59 AM EST — https://twitter.com/RidT/status/766228082160242688 (Thomas Rid suggests Shadow Brokers’ auction may be “retaliation” — note at this embedded tweet the use of “retaliation” and the embedded, highlighted image in which the words “Panama Papers” appear in red. Make of that what you will.[1])

18-AUG-2016 2:35 PM EST — https://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-shadow-brokers-nsa-leakers-linguistic-analysis (Two linguists suggest Shadow Brokers’ primary language is English distorted to mimic Russian ESL)

You know what this reminds me of? Sony Pictures’ email hacking. Back and forth with Russia-did-it-maybe-not-probably, not unlike the blame game pointing to North Korea in Sony’s case. And the linguistic analysis then suggesting something doesn’t quite fit.

[Today's front pages from USA Today, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, shared here under Fair Use.]

[Today’s front pages from USA Today, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, shared here under Fair Use.]

American Refugees
I read in one of my timelines today a complaint by a journalist about Louisiana flooding news coverage. Wish I’d captured the thread at the time; they were put out that the public was unhappy about the media’s reporting — or lack thereof. They noted all the links to articles, videos, photos being shared in social media, noting this content came from journalists.

Except there really is a problem. The embedded image here is the front page of each of the four largest newspapers in the U.S. based on circulation, total combined circulation roughly six million readers. NONE OF THEM have a story on the front page about the flooding in Louisiana, though three of them covered the California Blue Cut Fire. Naturally, one would expect the Los Angeles Times to cover a fire in their own backyard, and they do have a nice photo-dense piece online. But nothing on the front page about flooding.

The Livingston Parish, Louisiana sheriff noted more than 100,000 parish residents had lost everything in the flood. There are only 137,000 total residents in that parish.

Between the +80,000 Blue Cut Fire evacuees and more than 100,000 left temporarily homeless in Louisiana, the U.S. now has more than a couple hundred thousand climate change refugees for which we are utterly unprepared. The weather forecast this week is not good for the Gulf Coast as unusually warm Gulf water continues to pump moisture into the atmosphere. We are so not ready.

Longread: The last really big American flood
Seven Scribes’ Vann R. Newkirk II looks at the last time a long bout of flooding inundated low-lying areas in the south, setting in motion the Great Migration. This is the history lesson we’ve forgotten. We need to prepare for even worse because like the Blue Cut Fire in California and Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and New York, disaster won’t be confined to a place too easily written off the front page.

One more day. Hope to make it through.
_________
[1] Edited for clarity. Kind of.

Monday Morning: Calm, You Need It

Another manic Monday? Then you need some of Morcheeba’s Big Calm combining Skye Edward’s mellow voice with the Godfrey brothers’ mellifluous artistry.

Apple’s Friday-filed response to USDOJ: Nah, son
You can read here Apple’s response to the government’s brief filed after Judge James Orenstein’s order regarding drug dealer Jun Feng’s iPhone. In a nutshell, Apple tells the government they failed to exhaust all their available resources, good luck, have a nice life. A particularly choice excerpt from the preliminary statement:

As a preliminary matter, the government has utterly failed to satisfy its burden to demonstrate that Apple’s assistance in this case is necessary—a prerequisite to compelling third party assistance under the All Writs Act. See United States v. N.Y. Tel. Co. (“New York Telephone”), 434 U.S. 159, 175 (1977). The government has made no showing that it has exhausted alternative means for extracting data from the iPhone at issue here, either by making a serious attempt to obtain the passcode from the individual defendant who set it in the first place—nor to obtain passcode hints or other helpful information from the defendant—or by consulting other government agencies and third parties known to the government. Indeed, the government has gone so far as to claim that it has no obligation to do so, see DE 21 at 8, notwithstanding media reports that suggest that companies already offer commercial solutions capable of accessing data from phones running iOS 7, which is nearly three years old. See Ex. B [Kim Zetter, How the Feds Could Get into iPhones Without Apple’s Help, Wired (Mar. 2, 2016) (discussing technology that might be used to break into phones running iOS 7)]. Further undermining the government’s argument that Apple’s assistance is necessary in these proceedings is the fact that only two and a half weeks ago, in a case in which the government first insisted that it needed Apple to write new software to enable the government to bypass security features on an iPhone running iOS 9, the government ultimately abandoned its request after claiming that a third party could bypass those features without Apple’s assistance. See Ex. C [In the Matter of the Search of an Apple iPhone Seized During the Execution of a Search Warrant on a Black Lexus IS300, Cal. License Plate #5KGD203 (“In the Matter of the Search of an Apple iPhone” or the “San Bernardino Matter”), No. 16-cm-10, DE 209 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 28, 2016)]. In response to those developments, the government filed a perfunctory letter in this case stating only that it would not modify its application. DE 39. The letter does not state that the government attempted the method that worked on the iPhone running iOS 9, consulted the third party that assisted with that phone, or consulted other third parties before baldly asserting that Apple’s assistance remains necessary in these proceedings. See id. The government’s failure to substantiate the need for Apple’s assistance, alone, provides more than sufficient grounds to deny the government’s application.

Mm-hmm. That.

Dieselgate: Volkswagen racing toward deadline

  • Thursday, April 21 is the extended deadline for VW to propose a technical solution for ~500,000 passenger diesel cars in the U.S. (Intl Business Times) — The initial deadline was 24-MAR, establishing a 30-day window of opportunity for VW to create a skunkworks team to develop a fix. But if a team couldn’t this inside 5-7 years since the cars were first sold in the U.S., another 30 days wouldn’t be enough. Will 60 days prove the magical number? Let’s see.
  • VW may have used copyrighted hybrid technology without paying licensing (Detroit News) — What the heck was going on in VW’s culture that this suit might be legitimate?
  • After last month’s drop-off in sales, VW steps up discounting (Reuters) — Trust in VW is blamed for lackluster sales; discounts aren’t likely to fix that.

Once around the kitchen

  • California’s winter rains not enough to offset long-term continued drought (Los Angeles Times) — Op-ed by Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory–Pasadena and UC-Irvine’s professor of Earth system science. Famiglietti also wrote last year’s gangbuster warning about California’s drought and incompatible water usage.
  • Western scientists meet with North Korean scientists on joint study of Korean-Chinese volcano (Christian Science Monitor) — This seems quite odd, that NK would work in any way with the west on science. But there you have it, they are meeting over a once-dormant nearly-supervolcano at the Korea-china border.
  • BTW: Deadline today for bids on Yahoo.

There you are, your week off to a solid start. Catch you tomorrow morning!

Thursday Morning: War All The Time

War All The Time — seems appropriate now, and it’s been more than a dozen years since this song was released. Also rather pathetic that MTV censored a reference to suicide in this tune, like a drop of merthiolate on a gaping wound.

Say it isn’t so, girl! Wendy’s investigating possible breaches
On the face it, this doesn’t sound like a corporate-wide cybersecurity event. It may be confined to specific stores. But fast food chain Wendy’s contracted a security firm to look into unauthorized credit card charges made to cards used at their stores. Wendy’s joins Jimmy John’s and Chick-Fil-A in the growing list of compromised fast food chains.

Ransomware infects Israel’s Electric Authority
No outage has been reported as a result of ransomware infection of Israel’s electrical power system via phishing. Computers may have been isolated from the system’s network, though. The full extent of the malware’s impact is difficult to determine from reports available online; some likened this to the cyberattack on a Ukrainian power plant, and others called this a hacking, though neither description appears to fit well.

California struggles with self-driving car regulations
Oh dear Cthulhu…this bit:

Google has concluded that human error is the biggest risk in driving, and the company wants to remove the steering wheel and pedals from cars, giving people minimal ability to take over.

But computers never, ever make mistakes, right? No wonder California is struggling with this…but no. Even though Google’s DeepMind AI mastered GO a decade early, it can’t master California’s highways.

New high-speed wireless internet service launched by former Aereo CEO
Using microwave technology, new gigabit internet service provider Starry will begin in Boston this year once the FCC approves a limited test run in 15 cities. For now, this looks like a solution for urban areas, but it could be an alternative in rural areas where existing telecoms/ISPs fail to provide high-speed internet in spite of federal funds allocated to expand coverage. Imagine using wind turbine towers for Starry microcells to carry gigabit service to rural America.

All right, everybody back to the front, back to the foreverwar.